The 2013 NFL draft is now less than three weeks away. The scouts have seen it all now. They have seen tape on the prospects over the course of their collegiate careers, the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl, the NFL scouting combine and the recently completed pro days for the various players.
Now is the time for NFL teams like the Green Bay Packers to really get their draft boards put together. Packers general manager Ted Thompson has truly built his team through the draft, so he has the working knowledge to get this accomplished the right way.
This will be the ninth year that Thompson has run the draft for the Packers, and you can't argue with his success. Since that time, the Packers have gone 78-50 in eight seasons in the regular season, have won three NFC North titles, have gone to the postseason five times overall and have won a Super Bowl.
A large part of that success has been thanks to the drafting diligence of Thompson and his scouting staff.
When I do a mock draft, I try to get into the mind of Thompson. It's a tough thing to do, but I have had decent success in predicting whom Thompson and his staff might pick.
This mock draft of mine will be my third. I will not be selecting any of the players that I have already chosen in my previous two mock drafts.
Now, let's take a look at my third.
Weight: 283 Pounds
Datone Jones is very familiar with the 3-4 defensive scheme, as he played in it at UCLA. Jones was very versatile as well, as he played both inside and outside on the defensive line.
In three years playing for the Bruins, Jones had 12.5 sacks and had 36.5 tackles for loss. Jones plays the run very well, and keeps getting better at rushing the passer.
Added to that, Jones had a very nice week at the Senior Bowl, both in drills and in practice going up against some quality offensive linemen.
Jones didn't hurt himself at the combine, either, as he ran a 4.8-second 40-yard dash and also had 29 reps in the bench press. Plus, Jones led all defensive linemen at the combine by running a 4.32 in the 20-yard shuttle drill.
Jones would be a very nice fit for the Packers at defensive end. He has the type of ability to play both on early (rushing) downs and also in passing situations.
Weight: 215 Pounds
Eric Reid did not have as good a season in 2012 as he had in 2011. One of the reasons was that Reid didn't have three pretty good players back with him in the secondary, as Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Taylor were all gone.
Still, Reid had 91 tackles, two interceptions and seven passes broken up. But he was not as consistent as he was in 2011, when he was a second-team All-SEC pick at safety. But overall, he's underrated by most, based on his ability.
The skill set is there, and it was very apparent at the combine. Reid led all safeties in the 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds), the vertical jump (40.5 inches) and the broad jump (134.0 inches).
Reid would definitely help the Packers at strong safety, as he is physical against the run, fast and athletic enough to be an asset in coverage as well.
Weight: 195 Pounds
Packer fans might be familiar with the name Kenny Stills. Kenny Stills Sr. played for the Packers for five years at safety, after being drafted in 1985 out of Wisconsin.
Kenny Still Jr. plays wide receiver, and he went to Oklahoma, where he put up some very good numbers. In three years with the Sooners, Stills caught 204 passes for 2,594 yards and had 24 touchdowns.
Stills has the quickness to get off the line quick and also has outstanding deep speed. The son of a Packer also has very nice hands.
The former Sooner showed his speed at the combine, by running a 4.38 forty, which was among the best for wide receivers.
Weight: 220 Pounds
At one practice for the East-West Shrine Game, it was obvious to anyone there (including myself) that Ted Thompson was keeping a keen eye on running back Christine Michael.
Michael looked very good that week in St. Petersburg, Fla., both in practices and during the game. However, he had an up-and-down career at Texas A&M, mostly due to injuries and other issues.
With the Aggies, Michael rushed for 2,791 yards and 34 touchdowns over four years.
At the combine Michael helped himself a great deal and also hurt himself, too.
First, Michael led all running backs in five of the seven drills that they compete in at Indianapolis. The former Aggie was tops in the bench-press drill (27 reps), the vertical jump (43.0 inches), the broad jump (125.0 inches), the three-cone drill (6.69 seconds) and the 20-yard shuttle (4.02 seconds).
So...how did Michael hurt himself? He overslept and missed two team interviews.
"Michael can really run," Landry said. "But ball security and getting into the dog house pretty early with Kevin Sumlin because of some of the same problems means he's got to grow up. He's got to mature. I think he'll play, but he's hurt himself in terms of reliability, and he'll go a little bit later (in the draft)."
Thompson and company have to be sure that Michael will be someone that they can count on. The athletic ability is surely there, but will maturity issue be on the same level?
This is one of the questions being asked at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay about Michael.
Weight: 245 Pounds
When tight end Kyle Otten had his pro day at San Jose State, one of the people watching him was another San Jose alum...James Jones of the Packers.
It was a long road getting to his pro day for Otten, who suffered a staph infection at the Senior Bowl and was ill for quite some time. Otten's weight dropped to close to 220 pounds, but he is now back to full strength.
There is a lot to like about Otten on the field, as over that past two seasons as a Spartan, he has 99 receptions for 1,481 yards and nine touchdowns. Otten also has nice hands and is a good route-runner. He is tenacious in his run-blocking but still needs to improve that skill.
The Packers know that tight end Jermichael Finley will be with the team in 2013, but beyond that, he is a question mark. The Packers also lost Tom Crabtree to free agency.
Based on that, Otten would be a wise choice at this point of the draft.
Weight: 255 Pounds
Travis Long started out as a defensive end at Washington State, before the team switched to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2012. At that point, Long became an outside linebacker and performed well.
Last season, Long had 61 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, four passes batted, an interception and also forced a fumble.
Long was productive at defensive end the previous two years as well, as he had 93 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two forced fumbles.
The Packers are a bit thin on the depth chart at outside linebacker, and Long would certainly bring some talent and productivity to the position.
Weight: 310 Pounds
At the East-West Shrine Game practices, one of the guys who impressed me was center T.J. Johnson of South Carolina. Johnson definitely stood out with aggressiveness and tenacity during the workouts.
Johnson had a nice year in 2012, as he was named to the the coaches' 2012 All-SEC second team.
The former Gamecock is also very versatile, as he has played all three line positions at South Carolina, where he was a four-year starter.
Johnson is very familiar with playing in a wide-open offense under Steve Spurrier and is very adept at pulling and getting to the second level with his run blocking.
The Packers need some depth on their offensive line (especially on the interior), and Johnson will provide that, although he needs to get stronger and improve his technique.
Weight: 195 Pounds
Cornerback Marcus Cromartie of Wisconsin is moving up the draft boards to the point where he will probably get selected late in the draft. Cromartie was feeling like Rodney Dangerfield for awhile though, as he wasn't even invited to the NFL scouting combine. Talk about no respect.
That was hard to figure, as Cromartie made the 2012 All-Big Ten honorable-mention team (coaches and media). Cromartie also made a name for himself when he returned an interception to the house in the Big Ten Championship Game versus Nebraska.
At Wisconsin's pro day, with Ted Thompson in attendance, Cromartie ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash.
With the NFL becoming a pass-happy league the past couple of years, it seems as though no NFL team can have enough quality cornerbacks. Cromartie has the speed and ability to at least get that opportunity in the NFL.